Status Report

NASA Mars Global Surveyor Images of Spirit on Mars

By SpaceRef Editor
January 23, 2004
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The history of Spirit’s descent and landing on the surface of Mars is recorded in this image taken more than two weeks later on Jan. 19, 2004, by the camera on the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor. Spirit landed on Jan. 3, 2004.

The two dots in the upper left are the spacecraft’s backshell and parachute, which were shed as Spirit’s bridle was cut, allowing the lander to bounce to a rest while safely encased in airbags. To the far right of the image, a dark streak above a large crater is believed to be the location where the heat shield impacted. The heat shield had protected the spacecraft during its descent through the martian atmosphere and was jettisoned several kilometers above the surface.

A trail of bounce marks made by the airbags as Spirit bounced to a stop can be seen in the middle of the image. To the left of the second bounce mark is a square showing the location where engineers had calculated Spirit’s airbags first hit the martian surface, based on data from the descent image motion estimation system located on the bottom of the rover’s lander. The white dot near the bottom of the image is the lander, also known as the Columbia Memorial Station, at the Gusev Crater landing site.

Beside it is a dot marked “surface feature location,” showing the location of the lander estimated by the Spirit team using sight lines to landmarks in the lander’s panoramic images. This image was taken in the early martian afternoon.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS

SpaceRef staff editor.